success

Victory of the Campaign ‘Fair Treatment for Musicians Traveling on Planes with Their Instruments’

Dear signatories of the FIM petition, This message is to thank you for supporting our campaign 'Fair treatment for musicians traveling on planes with their instruments'. A draft amended regulation has been published by the EU Commission on March 20th, 2013, which includes specific provisions about musical instruments carried on planes, which is exactly what our petition was about (you can access the full document here: http://www.tinyurl.com/ctmddxe and go directly to page 28, article 6e). Of course, there is still some work to be done in order to make sure that the EU Parliament supports - or even improves - the Commission's proposal. But this is already a big success for all of us. I wish to extend our thanks to the EU Commissions' officials who have been carefully listening [...]

Backstage with the Boston Cello Quartet — by Blaise Déjardin

A few weeks ago, I had a video conversation with my 4 years-old nephew and my brother on Skype. At one point, my brother (also a cellist) tells my nephew: “You know Blaise plays in a cello quartet? He plays with three other cellists.” My nephew starts laughing: “A cello quartet? Noooo…That’s not possible!” Yes, it is! But it is indeed a strange concept and I believe it is rare to get a chance to have such a group with a long-term commitment. Since the Boston Cello Quartet is now releasing its first CD album, “Pictures”, it was interesting to look back on our three years together and talk about the challenges of being in a cello quartet. When I asked my colleagues to form a cello quartet, I knew [...]

The Holy Sextet (Part 2) — by Brant Taylor

Part 1 began an exploration of three bow variables that—in addition to the three well-known concepts of weight, speed, and contact point—make up a sextet of basics that should be known and practiced to maximize your control over the string with the bow.  We discussed the first and most important, bow angle, in Part 1. The remaining two variables may seem relatively minor, but they are by no means unimportant. If practicing means attempting to find solutions to the challenges of successful instrumental control, you should attempt to understand every potential reason for success or failure with the bow. FLATNESS OF HAIR, or how much of the hair makes contact with the string. Many cellists hold the bow with the stick tilted up (toward the fingerboard) to some degree. This means that [...]

A Cellist in Kabul (Part 1) — by Avery Waite

On September 4th, I packed up my things, hopped in a taxi and drove to JFK airport. My destination, Kabul. My job, the new cello teacher at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music. When I first heard about the opportunity to teach in Kabul, I knew deep down that I had no choice but to go. Something drew me to it. I applied for the job without really thinking it through completely. But when I was actually offered the position, I had to really take a step back and give it some serious thought. In fact, it took me almost three months to fully accept the decision I had made to go. Some days I would be thrilled and excited, and other days I would be scared out of my [...]

Playing Audition Excerpts: Yes, the Devil’s in Them — by Brant Taylor

Although the collection of excerpts on an audition repertoire list may seem arbitrary, each one has a purpose: giving the audition candidate an opportunity to demonstrate certain things about his or her playing and artistry. Audition success involves showing a command of certain basic elements—such as rhythm, dynamics, intonation and articulations—as well as conveying a nuanced understanding of the music and the composer. A well crafted audition list will include excerpts that emphasize each of these elements, and a candidate’s ability to demonstrate control and understanding of them will determine his or her chance for success. Let's put these goals into concrete terms using a common cello audition excerpt as an illustration—the opening of the second movement of Brahms' Symphony No. 2:   Brahms Second Symphony, 2nd Mvt. [...]

Competitions ≠ Success: A Student Perspective — by Lev Mamuya

Not all competitions are created equal. There are good ones and bad ones, and good and bad reasons for entering. Many kids are raised to be competitive, both musically and in school. Kids can feel pressure to do competitions from parents, teachers and peers. Sometimes it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking success can only be measured by winning competitions and that a career in music and admission to a good school are impossible without numerous wins. Competitions are good for many things, but they should not define success. They often consist of just one performance, on one particular day; success is something you achieve over many years through work and dedication. Since most competitions, at the most, will be three rounds over a short period of time, [...]

A New Look at Sight-Reading (Part 3) — by Robert Battey

Successful sight-readers move deftly around within a rigid hierarchy of tasks (“the Levels”).  They’re like fencers, thinking ahead, anticipating the threats and challenges in the music, and adapting what they do on a measure-by-measure basis.  They keep to the hierarchy, adding the next Level only when the lower ones are completely under control; experienced players do not jeopardize the ensemble by fumbling at a Level they can’t handle properly. Thus, effective sight-reading training is about understanding these Levels to the point where you can apply and adjust them instinctively, automatically.  As I’ve said, it’s a different kind of thinking, almost like playing a different instrument.  For most people, the most difficult concept to wrap your head around is that finding the actual pitches comes last.  Simply chasing notes will quickly [...]

Behind the Scenes of a Music Festival (Part 3): The Rehearsal Mine Field — by Aron Zelkowicz

Quartet rehearsal, 10 am! Which means you show up at 10:04, but then decide to make a quick Starbucks run with the second violinist because the violist is parking his car anyway and seriously, who can be expected to tackle Shostakovich at 10am without their Grande Vanilla Double Soy Macchiato? You return to discuss next week’s rehearsal schedule because there have been just too many e-mails lately (and of course, what are we wearing for the concert?). You take the opportunity to xerox that missing page of your part, unfold your stands, rosin your bows, and then, finally, you’re ready….to tune. It’s ok, no big deal—10:27 is plenty early to start rehearsing. There is always tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. Such may be the way of the [...]

A New Look at Sight-Reading (Part 2) — by Robert Battey

"I can play something ok if I have some time to practice it, but I can't sight-read to save my life."  How many times have we heard this lament or some variant, particularly among adult amateurs?  It does express a common deficiency.  Sight-reading is a specialized skill, which must be acquired separately and in addition to one’s general technical work, so it’s quite common for a competent player to be a weak sight-reader. The term “sight-reading” is a poor one since it’s both obvious (how else will you read music if not by sight?) and inaccurate (“sight-playing” is a little closer, though not by much).  It’s been used to mean several different things, but the meaning we’re concerned with here, and the only context in which the skill level really [...]

Self-Motivation and Summer Vacation — by Brandon Vamos

As I helped my students over the last few weeks in preparation for their juries and looked through my calendar to discover how many recitals I will be attending before the middle of May, it suddenly hit me. The end of the school year is upon us once again. That time when there’s one final burst of juries and lessons, tests and papers before summer vacation hits. And after a long academic year, summer vacation can offer a welcome change. I remember those summers I was attending summer programs, and had three or four weeks off, or those students who sometimes have the entire summer devoted to working or relaxation. But regardless of what your summer plans may look like this year, I’d encourage you to remember one very important [...]

Three Cellos are Better Than One — by Lluís Claret

Greetings from Spain to all CelloBello people! This is a big honor and I am full of excitement to be joining your community! I would like to begin my first blog with some personal thoughts about: three cellists living together at home! Yes, my family is made up of 3 cellists: my wife Anna, a former student and assistant; our son Daniel, also a former student; and myself. (Our daughter Aina "just" plays piano...!) Some of my colleagues may find it hard to believe we could have a successful, "peaceful" family life when there are 3 different cello personalities sharing practice space and time under the same roof. But I can tell you, it works. So, what makes it possible? Gÿorgy Sebök, the great pianist, pedagogue, and one of my main musical [...]

Defining the Intangible — by Melissa Kraut

Several years ago I was asked to contribute to an article for Strings Magazine on "what teachers look for in an incoming student."  I was excited about the article—what a fantastic idea—a compilation of suggestions from teachers who listen to 100+ cellists a year auditioning for music schools!  Despite my best intentions, I still haven't crafted a contribution. (Here is where I should publicly apologize to the cellist, who is no doubt reading this entry, for the 3 year delay in responding to your request).  My neglect  was not for lack of interest, or lack of knowledge or experience on the subject.  It came down to the difficulty in putting words to something that  is so nebulous—defining the intangible.  The title for this entry popped into my head during audition [...]

Practice Time: Inspiring and Productive? — by Natasha Brofsky

As musicians, a life spent practicing our instruments means that we need to be able to teach and inspire ourselves. The art of practicing well is essential in order to develop our own musical voice. The musical idea is everything. Awaken your musical imagination!! Is the phrase you are practicing lyrical or dancelike? Is it passionate? Melancholy? Stormy? Tender? Does a particular passage inspire a scene in your mind? What kind of a story does it tell? How do you want the audience to experience the music at that particular moment? Experiment! Try different bowings and fingerings for the same passage. What makes the music come alive?Remember that the phrasing and emotional impact of the music affect what techniques we use to play it successfully, so don’t decide on bowings or [...]

Seeing a Bigger Picture — by Yeesun Kim

As a young cellist, I gratefully accepted my teachers' generous offers of bowings, fingerings and phrasing suggestions to many  pieces I studied. These suggestions were well tested in numerous performances, were given thoughtful evaluation that took into account the personal convictions of many great musicians. At that time, I was not particularly in the habit of questioning and reasoning for myself. In a sense,  other than what I HAD to contribute, I trusted that all this work would and should settle into a successful interpretation. Since becoming the cellist of a professional string quartet (the Borromeo String Quartet), my attitude HAD to change completely. Now, it was not possible to participate in making music without evaluating ALL that was in the score. The pieces in the repertoire of the string [...]

Thirds, Thirds, Thirds… — by Lev Mamuya

Practice your thirds.  As well as improving your technique, it can be…sigh…well, even a little bit fun. Many people give thirds an unfair label: they’re boring, they’re tedious, and they’re hard… Thirds are hard at first, and require daily repetition to maintain to the fullest, but never fear! A good daily method can change you from someone who hates thirds, to someone who can look forward to practicing thirds every day. Scales are always good. Thirds scales are even better. Practicing thirds scales slowly and repetitively is an important way to improve technique such as left hand finger rounding and intonation. Plus, a slow tempo can give you more time to focus on right hand/arm technique. This may not be the most fun part of practicing thirds, but JUST DO [...]